Elizabeth II will be mourned in Portugal
British royalty has not always been kind to Portugal over the 636 years that England (and later the United Kingdom) and Portugal have enjoyed what still is the longest unbroken treaty in the world — the Treaty of Windsor of 1386.
By Chris Graeme
The Portuguese have never quite forgotten that in 1898 the UK made an agreement with the Kaiser’s Germany over Portugal’s colonies of Mozambique, Angola, and Timor, which given the nearly bankrupt state of their colonial masters, were likely to be coming onto the world market.
The two signatories (Portugal was not even consulted) agreed they would keep other potential interested parties out of the equation and carve up the Portuguese empire for themselves.
There were also disputes over Southern Africa, which resulted in the 1890 British Ultimatum that forced the retreat of Portuguese military forces from areas which had been claimed by Portugal on the basis of historical discovery and exploration, but which the UK claimed on the basis of effective occupation.
I can still remember having my ear chewed off by the great and learned Portuguese historian José Hermano Saraiva at a lunch in Estremoz some 15 years ago in which I was berated for all the terrible things the English had done to Portugal, which was abused and used most sorely in the name of whichever monarch happened to be sitting on the throne at the time. It was not a pleasant experience I can assure you, and I pointed out that I was not the British ambassador to Portugal!
Portugal had attempted to claim a large area of land between its colonies of Mozambique and Angola, including most of present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia and a large part of Malawi, which had been included in Portugal’s “Rose-coloured Map”.
After military threats from the British, the Portuguese were forced into an embarrassing stand down, and although official relations were repaired, the 1890 ultimatum is said to be one of the main causes for the republican revolution which ended the monarchy 20 years later on 5 October, 1910.
But there were happier times too; the marriage of Philippa of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, who wedded King João I of Portugal in 1387, was a happy marriage by all accounts and would go on to produce the ‘illustrious generation” which included Henry the Navigator who sponsored voyages of exploration to West Africa.
There are the amusing stories, made much of in the Regency cartoons of the time, of the stay the regal toddler princess Maria da Gloria – Queen Maria II – made in England in 1828, and who impressed King George IV with her self-assured queenly manner even at that tender age.
Later on in her reign, the Queen of Portugal’s correspondence with her cousin Queen Victoria gives an interesting insight into the private life of the two powerful women, both married to princes of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha/Kohary (Albert and Ferdinand) who exchanged in French about the struggles of juggling motherhood with the responsibility and pleasure of power.
And who could forget and not feel somewhat sorry for the trials and tears of the swarthy and devout Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, who was married to womanising King Charles II, and forced to endure the humiliations of seeing his many mistresses bear healthy sons and daughters, while she remained childless. Still, we owe her the introduction of tea drinking and the popularisation of the traditional Sunday roast dinner, if the culinary Two Fat Ladies are anything to go by.
King Edward VII made a royal visit to Portugal in 1903; the Lisbon city park Eduardo VII is named after him. In 1904 the King of Portugal, Carlos I and Queen Amelia paid a reciprocal but ceremonial visit to England where the royal couple met ‘Bertie and Alex’ (King Edward and Queen Alexandra) at Windsor Castle.
Both women were admirably matched by their expensive love of jewels. (The Portuguese parliament once sent a deputation to the palace to request that her mother-in-law Queen Maria Pia curb her spending. Maria Pia famously replied: “tell the house that if they want a queen, then they must damn well pay for one”.)
The visits, although purely personal, were on the back of a series of frantic lightning European visits to cement the Entente Cordiale as Britain, concerned about Germany’s naval programme, finally left its splendid isolation in her quest for allies. The visit, however, also served to mend fences after the aforementioned disastrous ‘Pink Map’ debacle in 1890.
Portugal’s ambassador to London in the last decade of the monarchy, Luís Pinto, the 1st Marquis de Soveral was King Edward VII’s confident, friend and partner in crime. The jealous Kaiser Wilhelm, who loved to hate his uncle, nicknamed him ‘the blue monkey’.
In more recent times, on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, made a surprise and special appearance at the garden party held at the British ambassador’s residence in Lisbon in July to commemorate the Queen’s official birthday, and told the hundreds of guests how, as a young boy, he went to Terreiro do Paço square to see the young Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive in Lisbon in 1957 for a State visit.
The streets of Lisbon were packed with hundreds of thousands of people along the route which the Queen travelled, and Salazar, notorious for his penny-pinching, spared no expense to provide the royal couple with an unforgettable second honeymoon as the international press called the official visit.
The arrival of the Queen on board the royal yacht Britannia, which moored on the River Tagus, had been set for 18 February, 1957, but the preparations were weeks in the making and cost the Portuguese State 222,590$ (€60,000 in today’s money, but millions in real terms back then).
The State even purchased a Rolls Royce to ferry the Queen and her husband around the city as crowds lined the riverside clapping from Belém to Ribeira das Naus, while the river was covered in small and large boats brightly festooned and bedecked with flags, frigates and yachts blowing their horns.
The visit was a great success, there was a State banquet at Ajuda Palace and a visit to the opera house of São Carlos. Salazar saw his dictatorship given a veneer of international acceptability, if not respectability, at a time when the age of dictators had ended in Western Europe ignobly after WWII.
The passing of our late sovereign Elizabeth II, which while expected, was a shock as much in Portugal as it was in the United Kingdom judging by the amount of coverage on Portuguese television on Thursday and in the newspapers on Friday.
The Portuguese people were genuinely fond of Her Majesty and I have no doubt whatsoever that the kindness and interest shown in the British royal family, its traditions and royal family ties, will continue under the reign of her son, King Charles III. The Portuguese relationship with the United Kingdom has weathered the test of time, even though the balance tended to be more in England’s favour than in Portugal’s. May that special relationship continue.